After a widespread series of leaks unveiled everything from multiplayer maps, to single-player story and character details, Activision chose to speed up the marketing campaign for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and the game became officially official in the middle of May 2011. The year prior, Treyarch’s Black Ops was revealed around the same time, also spoiled early with leaked details and retailer postings.

Last year however, the info came early when Activision registered the Black Ops 2 domain last January, followed by the usual leaks and official teases, and the first official trailer, all taking place in late April and early May. Needless to say, it’s about that time the video game industry learns about the next game in the series and interestingly enough, rumors about last year’s game may tie into this year’s.

Fans may remember last year in the lead-up to the official unveiling of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, the word “Eclipse.” Some thought it was a codename for the game, some thought it was actually the subtitle of the game, until we learned that the Black Ops 2’s release was timed with a real-life solar eclipse on November 13, 2012. If it were a codename however, the latest rumor surround 2013’s Call of Duty installment would make more sense.

OnlySP picked up on an oddly unpopular posting by a user on the Call of Duty forums earlier this month that includeds what the writer claims to be a logo and screenshots from the official Call of Duty website that may be namedropping the new game, and that it’ll be titled Call of Duty: Dark Skyline. Dark skyline, eclipse, get it?

Black Ops 2 Sales Call of Duty Decline

We don’t believe this is the title of the next game, nor do we believe this (up top) is an actual leaked logo. There are some awful-resolution camera photos of the apparent screen at OnlySP but it could very well be photoshopped. That being said, within the next two weeks, it’s a safe bet that we will learn about the next Call of Duty. That’s the timeline for the marketing, after all.

Dan Amrich, Activision Community Manager, went on record last week saying that Activision is currently still busy with Black Ops 2 but that fans will hear about the future of the series no later than E3. Saving the full unveil for E3 would be highly unusual, and a first for the series, so it’s

The more likely scenario is that Infinity Ward’s next game, possibly with the help of developers NeverSoft, Raven Software and Sledgehammer Games is Modern Warfare 4. That’s the rumor thanks to the voice actor behind Captain Price and other leaked details.

While many gamers will scoff at and groan at yet another modern more-of-the-same FPS, especially after the fails of Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel, Medal of Honor: Warfighter and the mixed responses to the Battlefield 4 unveiling, what everyone can agree on is that Call of Duty needs to step it up. They fell behind on the tech front big-time against EA’s Battlefield 3 and Frostbite 2 engine in 2011 (which helped BF3 become EA’s fastest-selling game ever) and still haven’t offered comparable visuals quite yet. And with Battlefield 4 already unveiled, powered by an even better engine, Activision needs to present something groundbreaking, especially with 2013 being the launch year of the next-gen consoles.

Even if the next Call of Duty from Infinity Ward is Modern Warfare 4, if Activision is planning long-term, they must do something radically different and new this year. No matter what, “Call of Duty” and “Modern Warfare” together equals record-level sales, but it’s also marked a dip in quality, and less buzz surround DLC and marketing materials. Having the industry’s largest advertising budget and an established fanbase to go along with industry-leading competitive and eSports-ready multiplayer offerings gives the brand leeway, but the story campaigns and limited co-op offerings, combined with rinse-and-repeat adversarial modes are getting stale.

Part of the solution – and we hope this is coming this fall – is the new and impressive game engine visuals Activision showcased at GDC in March. There was a very intentional reason for the timing of the images (see gallery below) released, let alone the figures depicted – one being a female soldier. There’s no way Activision showcases these images the year of the next-gen consoles (and Battlefield 4) and comes out with a game that looks the same as their last four. Activision and Infinity Ward can’t afford to fall behind that much on the graphical prowess front. Call of Duty needs to be a leader in the genre on that front as well and we’re excited to see if they deliver something impressive – visually – at E3… or as history would indicate, in the next two weeks.

Despite claiming Black Ops 2 may be the best-selling game of all-time and having the highest launch day shipments of all-time, Black Ops 2 had a slower sales in its first month than both Black Ops 1 and Modern Warfare 3, and resulted in analysts claiming the series may have peaked. Activision needs to keep the cash cow flowing and invest those dollars right.

[Update: Nailed it. Call of Duty: Ghosts revealed.]

Let me know on Twitter @rob_keyes what improvements Call of Duty should make.

Source: OnlySP